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Jun 21, 2012

Apple Explains the Thunderbolt to Gigabit Adapter

If you’re looking to find out which computers support the Apple Thunderbolt to Gigabit Ethernet Adapter, where you can connect it, the requirements for using it, etc., Apple released a handy FAQ that answers all these questions, and more.

If you’re curious to know which Macs support this adapter, you should be happy to learn that all Thunderbolt-equipped systems are a go, so long as you have OS X Lion v10.7.4 or later installed. Macs released prior to June, 2012 that also boast a Thunderbolt connector will require Thunderbolt Software Update 1.2.1 to use this adapter.

You can connect this adapter to external devices, as well as directly to the port on your Mac. And, if you’re "daisy chaining" multiple devices, Apple says that at least one computer on the Thunderbolt chain needs to act as a host. This and much more can be found here, in the Apple Thunderbolt to Gigabit Ethernet Adapter: Frequently Asked Questions.

Windows Phone 8 Could Bring the Change Microsoft Needs

Microsoft might have finally got it right on the smartphone OS market with the upcoming Windows Phone 8 platform.

Of course, with no actual hardware to look at, it’s hard to say whether the platform will indeed prove successful or not, but the range of changes the company announced yesterday make us believe that it might. Admittedly, Windows Phone is not selling well at the moment, at least not when compared to sales of Android or iPhone. But current devices are mostly to blame for this, something that will change with Windows Phone 8. All the necessary ingredients to start gaining ground on the mobile market are there: support for better hardware, an improved, appealing look, great new applications, and support from leading handset vendors and wireless carriers. First of all, Windows Phone 8 comes with core technology found in Windows 8, and can deliver features and capabilities available on PCs and tablets powered by this OS.

This includes better networking, faster and more secure browsing, and support for much better applications. Coupled with support for multi-core processors (the next-gen chips from Qualcomm) and higher resolution screens, these features alone could make Windows Phone 8 a winner.

Better apps, impressive gaming capabilities
If help was needed, it would come from the over 100,000 apps available today in the Marketplace, backed by a large community of developers. But there’s more to it. Microsoft also promises better development features for app builders, and lures them with support for native code and for C and C++. Better yet, it promises in-app purchases, and compatibility between mobile and desktop apps. In addition to multitasking, Windows Phone 8 will also arrive with native DirectX-based game development, and with support for popular gaming middleware such as Havok Vision Engine, Autodesk Scaleform, Audiokinetic Wwise, and Firelight FMOD.

It seems Microsoft won’t leave anything to change here: the platform will bring apps on par with those destined for Windows 8’s Metro UI, and will also offer desktop-like gaming features, meant to make it a true entertainment platform. With a wider range of personalization features packed inside, Windows Phone 8 devices won't be simple handsets, but will be the mirrored image of their owners. They will be personal. In a market where the ecosystem sells devices, Windows Phone 8 packs all that it is needed to attract users on its side. Add higher-end, better-looking smartphones to that, and you’ll get the entire picture.

Windows Phone 8, a companion for Windows 8 PCs
Microsoft wants to make sure that Windows Phone 8 will be a success, and pushes its relation with Windows 8 a bit further. Anyone who would purchase an upcoming tablet PC running under its software would certainly consider buying a phone to go along with it as well. In fact, Microsoft announced that Windows Phone 8 handsets would be able to communicate better with Windows 8 computers, especially with tablet PCs powered by the upcoming platform. They will make a great couple, in Microsoft’s vision. With the stage set, all that is missing is the actual Windows Phone 8 hardware. However, based on the latest rumors on the matter, we should expect some great things here as well.

The OS will arrive with support for better processors, improved screens, higher-quality cameras, better connectivity capabilities, and the latest technologies out there packed inside, such as NFC.

Quad-core and dual-core handsets inbound
Microsoft mentioned that Windows Phone 8 devices would include next-gen chips from Qualcomm, the same processors that power today’s high-end Android smartphones. This means that we’ll have Snapdragon S4 Windows Phone 8 devices launched as soon as this year, featuring quad-core and dual-core chips capable of putting them on the same line as said Android devices. If price tags are competitive, Microsoft might finally see devices running under its mobile OS flying off shelves the same as Samsung Galaxy S, HTC One series or iPhones do today. The best part is that this combination of appealing software and high-end hardware arrives only a few months after rival solutions did. Microsoft finally closed this gap, another strong point for its new mobile OS. In the end, Windows Phone 8 might prove the winner that Microsoft has been expecting since 2010, when Windows Phone 7 landed.

Windows Phone 8 Upgrades Will Arrive Over-The-Air

One of the major changes that Microsoft announced for Windows Phone 8 is related to the manner in which updates will arrive on devices.

Until now, new software was being delivered to users through Microsoft’s Zune desktop software, or via the Windows Phone Companion for Mac, but that will change. Starting with Windows Phone 8, platform refreshes will be rolled out over-the-air, thus simplifying the entire process. Additionally, the Redmond-based software giant committed to delivering more updates to users, more frequently.

The ultimate goal is to have the “fresher operating system” out there, Microsoft announced. All handsets will be supported for at least 18 months following their release on the market. For enthusiasts, a special program that provides them with access to new updates before they are pushed to the masses will be launched.

Microsoft’s Surface Tablet Crashes on Stage

The new tablet concept introduced by Microsoft earlier this week doesn’t seem to be so responsive and snappy, especially when the operating system crashes. Microsoft’s Windows and Windows Live Division President, Mr. Steven Sinofsky managed to crash the system just 13 minutes after the presentation began.

The Microsoft representative was apparently trying to launch an instance of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser, but the unit refused to pay any attention to his fingers. After a few failed attempts to restart the tablet, Mr. Steven Sinofsky ran back and grabbed another device that finally took pity on Microsoft’s image and decided to allow Steven to open the browser.

We are wondering what version of the tablet was the one that crashed, but we don’t think we’ll be able to get an answer from the software giant. The question is a good one still: was that an Intel-based device or an ARM one?

A Closer Look at Windows Phone 8’s New Features

Windows Phone 8, the next-gen mobile platform from Microsoft, was finally made official. Those of you who kept an eye on our latest news on the matter are fully aware of that.

It is also known that the platform was unveiled with a nice range of improvements over the previous versions, and that the most important of them involves support for better hardware configurations. While Windows Phone Tango brought along support for entry-level devices, Windows Phone 8, codenamed Apollo, will arrive with support for high-end smartphones. Built on the same core technology that powers Windows 8, the platform will be loaded on multi-core handsets, so that hardware makers would have a wider range of options when designing Windows Phones. The same networking, security, media and web browser technology packed inside Windows 8 will be available to Windows Phone 8 users, for better performance capabilities, a host of new features, and support for more, better applications.

Moreover, the new OS will offer support for more screen resolutions. Windows Phone came along with support for only one of them, but two more have been added to Apollo, opening the door to HD experiences: 1280 x 768 and 1280 x 720. There is also support for MicroSD memory cards, so that owners could expand the available storage as they please, whenever they please. Through NFC capabilities, sharing content and making mobile payments will work like a charm on Windows Phone 8, Microsoft suggests.

New and better software coming to Windows Phone 8

A variety of modifications were made to the software that people will access on their devices. New applications, improved existing ones, along with various other software enhancements are certain to appeal to all users. For navigation on the web, the platform will provide them with Internet Explorer 10, featuring the same browsing engine as on Windows 8. Fast and more secure navigation will be possible through features such as SmartScreen Filter. For making mobile payments, there will be a Wallet application included right from the start, with support for keeping debit and credit cards, coupons, boarding passes, and more. Through integrated speech recognition features, users will be able to interact with their devices without even touching the screen. Microsoft will have Skype integrated in the new platform release, so that owners could enjoy better VoIP capabilities on their devices. Skype calls will be treated as phone calls, and users will be able to put them on hold, switch to another call, or even view content while the conversation is in progress.

Windows Phone 8 will also arrive with better maps and directions capabilities. Built on Nokia’s mapping service, these features include more detailed maps and turn-by-turn directions in a series of countries, as well as offline mapping, for navigation even without a data connection. In fact, Nokia also announced that they are updating some of the applications they already have available on Windows Phone, and that they would be releasing new ones for all Apollo users. According to Microsoft, the tight relation between Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 will also open the door to a new wave of great applications and games for the platform. And there’s also the new Start screen, which Microsoft claims that can make the phone even more personal than before, turning it into the companion that any user would dream of. 

“As you can see, we’re making Windows Phone 8 even more personal, with a new palette of theme colors and three sizes of Live Tiles, all of which are under your control,” Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore notes in a blog post. “We know Live Tiles are one of the things current owners really love about their Windows Phones, and we wanted to make them even more flexible and unique.” Windows Phone 8 is expected to hit shelves this fall on devices coming from mobile phone makers such as Nokia, Huawei, Samsung, and HTC. They will be powered by next-generation chips from Qualcomm. Additional info on this will be released closer to the launch date. At the moment, you can learn more on the new platform by having a look at the Windows Phone 8 launch event video, embedded below.

HP Drops Calxeda and Announces Centerton-Based Micro Servers

Intel’s Centerton is a micro server-targeted Atom processor that is supposed to arrive sometime next year and to bring 64-bit support along with ECC and virtualization. HP was planning to get into the micro server business using ARM processors from its small partner called Calxeda.

Now, it seems that HP did a 180 degrees turn and is now announcing  micro servers based on Intel’s Centerton.

Back when DELL showed their ARM test servers, it seemed to me that they were practically taunting Intel with their “Copper” ARM server project that they announced earlier this year.

I even got a chance to ask DELL about its intentions with Marvell Armada XP and how come Intel’s main partner was going for ARM.

After all, DELL was the company that remained Intel's exclusive partner all throughout the seven years between 1999 and late 2006 when AMD had the superior architecture and performance.

Intel poured money into DELL for most of that period and lately it was shown that DELL might have actually posted losses if it wouldn’t have been for Intel’s marketing funds.

The company’s representative claimed there was no “taunting” involved and that Intel and DELL are “best buddies.”

In my opinion, DELL won’t launch ARM-based servers too soon and the move is only to get better prices and other advantages from Intel.

We believe HP’s partnership with Calxeda was only put into practice to get Intel to offer HP a better deal. Intel’s Centerton is said to bring sub 10 watts power consumption. There are reports that place “Centerton” at a 6W TDP and if the architecture is similar to Clover Field or Medfield, it seems that the processors will run at high frequencies, such as 2 GHz or more. A 6 watt Atom CPU built on in 22 nm technology will likely be able to achieve a very high frequency and this will give ARM a run for their money. The thing is that ARM server processors are available now and they are trouncing Intel’s Xeon in specific benchmarks.

Galaxy S III Is Too Hot, It Even Melts Down

Samsung’s Galaxy S III is a hot device. It is the most expected Android smartphone of the year, and millions of enthusiasts already jumped the gun on it.

However, it appears that the device might be too hot for its own good, and we don’t mean that figuratively. One Galaxy S III unit reportedly malfunctioned while in an in-car holster, which resulted in the device being damaged, most probably permanently. The user who witnessed this says that some of the phone’s internals melted, and that they caused burns over the lower part of the device. It was a global HSPA+ flavor of Galaxy S III, which reportedly sparked into flames, and went down with a bang. While the phone’s screen continued working, the user claims that there was no reception, and that the device itself suffered a lot of damage along the base. Clearly, this is not the first time that we learn of exploding handsets, though it does come as a surprise that it happened to Samsung’s latest flagship, and that it occurred so soon after its official release.

Apparently, Samsung was already made aware of the issue, and it is currently investigating to learn what caused the unfortunate accident. “There have been recent online posts displaying pictures of a Samsung GALAXY S III that appears to have heat-related damage at the bottom of the device. Samsung is aware of this issue and will begin investigating as soon as we receive the specific product in question,” the company said. “Once the investigation is complete, we will be able to provide further details on the situation. We are committed to providing our customers with the safest products possible and are looking at this seriously.” Hopefully, this proves to be only an isolated event, otherwise Samsung’s image would be hurt, and sales of its flagship Galaxy S III might drop a bit.

The New Windows Phone 8 Start Screen Detailed on Video

One of the enhancements that the new Windows Phone 8 platform will arrive on devices with is a new Start screen, aimed at increasing the personalization options that users can benefit from.

According to Microsoft, the new Start screen in Windows Phone 8 has been tailored to support each user’s specific needs. The handset won’t be a simple phone, but it will be a reflection of user’s personality, the Redmond-based software giant claims.

In the video above, you can have a look at the main changes brought to Windows Phone’s start screen, such as resizable live tiles, and more, all meant to reduce the time users spend on the phone. “Live Tiles are the heart and soul of a Windows Phone. With the new start experience, your Windows Phone is even more personal than ever before,” Microsoft notes.

Intel Avoton in 22nm Arriving Next Year

Intel just refuses to let the Atom architecture die its rightfully deserved death. After pulling an ugly prank with the “performance is irrelevant netbook” concept three years ago, Intel is now pushing Atom strong in the server market.

Intel’s General Manager for the Cloud Infrastructure Group, Mr. Jason Waxman, presented his vision on what the micro server evolution will look like during the next year. While end-users finally understood what a hoax Atom was and are now stirring away from netbooks, Intel wants to use its “Jedi-Knight powers” to hypnotize the corporate market into buying its low-performance processor. In our humble opinion, they have a strong chance on achieving their goal in the short term, as the corporate market is usually the first victim of Intel’s marketing. There is a certain market niche for these micro servers using low-power processors, but Intel’s In-Order architecture is certainly not the best solution.

ARM’s Cortex A9 and Cortex A15 cores are simply better and consume even less power. DELL demonstrated what can be achieved with ARM architecture in a server chassis. AMD’s Out-of-Order architecture is also offering superior performance, while the GPU compute potential is exponentially higher. It will be an interesting fight on the micro server front next year.

In a recent talk I had with several scientists working for Schneider Electric or ST Micro at Grenoble INPG, I was amazed how professionals are completely mind-set on Intel. One even told me that he “wouldn’t use AMD on a keychain,” and none of them believed that AMD had better graphics or was able to fit in the same thermal envelope or thin format as Intel’s processors.

For people that don’t have time to do specific research to understand what the advantages or disadvantages of a certain processor architecture are, Intel’s marketing money will likely sway the deal towards the blue side.

I heard arguments like “AMD CPUs are hotter and break down in a few years,” and “Intel is quality, while AMD is cheap.”

The most amazing thing was that none of them had any knowledge that AMD actually had the superior architecture for seven years, between 1999 and late 2006.

Marketing campaigns seem to have a perfect impact on those that refuse to do the research (uninformed buyers) and on those that are too busy with their own research to do anything else (professionals/scientists).

Nokia Will Allow Scalado Imaging Technology in BlackBerry 10

Last week, Finnish mobile phone maker Nokia announced plans to purchase the imaging specialist Scalado, which has been its partner for the past several years.

The move is meant to enable the vendor to deliver better camera capabilities to its Lumia users, Nokia announced. Apparently, the handset vendor is also committed to allowing Scalado partners to continue using the imaging technology from this company even after the acquisition. Nokia’s Kevin Shields, SVP of Program and Product Management, confirmed that last night at the Windows Phone 8 launch event in San Francisco, The Verge reports.

“We're doing it in such a way that Scalado can...fully deliver on commitments they've made to all of their partners, that includes RIM,” he said. Research In Motion will use the technology in its upcoming BlackBerry 10 OS, which should deliver an overall enhanced experience to its users, as can be seen in the video above.

Nvidia’s Kepler GTX680 Overclocked at 2 GHz on EVGA’s Classified GTX 680

Professional overclockers seem to have found the secret of Kepler overclocking and Vince “k|ngp|n” Lucido managed to clock the architecture at an amazing 2002 MHz. The score reported on the ORB page is 213 points higher than what MSI’s Radeon HD 7970 Lightning achieved in the hands of the Polish overclocking team.

With a score of P16472 in 3D Mark 11 with Performance setting set, Nvidia’s Kepler managed to achieve the highest score for a single-GPU card in FutureMark’s new 3D benchmark. The card responsible for the feat is EVGA’s GTX 680 Classified with 4 GB of GDDR5 memory onboard.

The memory speed was an effective 7406 MHz, while the system’s CPU, an Intel Core i7-3960X six-core processor, was overclocked to an amazing 5.53 GHz.

First ARM vs. Intel Benchmarks: Cortex A9 Trounces Xeon E3

Although HP stabbed Calxeda in the back today, the small start-up has something interesting to show the industry. The company is presenting the first benchmark results of its ECX-1000 processor architecture.

The test compares a Calxeda ECX-1000 SoC that has four Cortex A9 processor cores inside to an Intel E3 Xeon based on the Sandy Bridge architecture. The model of choice was a quad-core E3-1240 Xeon processor that runs at a fact 3.3 GHz frequency and consumes a maximum of 80 watts. Considering that the comparison is done with a SoC, we must add the power consumption of the chipset when calculating Xeon’s power consumption.

The results show that Calxeda’s processor is 20% slower than Intel’s Xeon, but this is offset by the amazingly low power consumption of only 5.26 watts.  Xeon uses a 19 times higher 102 watts, while working at a 300% higher clock frequency.

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